Depths of winter
Perhaps it’s to do with living up here in Glasgow, perhaps not, but I seem to have been thinking more about winter this year than ever before. Winter in Scotland can be a long season; from our little cottage in the southern Highlands, snow was visible on the hilltops until the first week of May last year, and reappeared in November.
There is something about a clear winter sky, dark trees silhouetted, an orange winter sun which evokes a deeply buried creativity – even in me!
- The excellent BBC Scotland series “Highlands – Scotland’s wild heart” focussed disproportionately on this bleakest of seasons, describing the frantic preparations of the natural world in order to survive the “winter lock-down”.
- In Richard Adam’s “Watership Down” (which I re-read after hearing that he had died at Christmas) he suggests that when humans say they like winter they really mean they like being proof against winter…”for animals and for a poor man, winter is the enemy”.
- This tallied with much that I had read in an excellent book “Weatherland” by Alexandra Harris which examines our relationship with the seasons through the lens of art and literature.
- Not until Pieter Breughel painted “The hunters in the snow” in 1565 had winter ever been considered a thing of beauty, a season which we might like to look at on our living room walls – until that time, winter had been a matter of survival.
- For many in Syria and other countries around the world, and for many who are homeless, it still is.
Yet I do find a deep attraction in winter. Not just its beauty when snow has fallen and the sun is shining from a clear blue sky but also an attraction to the idea of a season of dormancy, a season of withdrawal, a season of hibernation. Spiritually I know it to be true that our lives may develop greatly in the winter seasons we all experience.
There is much to explore in these ideas and no space here to do so, but in conversation with a friend in the past few days who described her current experiences as “a winter” I was reminded of words I had read at the turn of the year, written by Linda Richardson to accompany her artwork alongside Thomas Hardy’s poem, “The darkling thrush” and appearing on Malcolm Guite’s poetry blog here. I commend her thoughts to you, with their challenge to not crave only summer, sunshine and fun, but to be open to the depths of winter – and the depths which an emotional or spiritual winter can create in us.
It may be just as well that I feel like this… in the next few days I will be setting off to visit the Methodist Church in Russia and it’s currently about minus 15 in Moscow! Jill